The Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF) will hold a press conference on Tuesday, March 22, at the New York State Supreme Court in lower Manhattan to announce the filing of a lawsuit against the City of New York and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene challenging the city's practice of requiring transgender people to undergo surgery before it will issue them birth certificates with corrected sex designations.
This is the first lawsuit to challenge a surgical requirement for correcting whether someone is classified as "male" or "female" on a birth certificate. It alleges that the city's surgical requirement is arbitrary, and that it subjects transgender people to harassment and discrimination in violation of the New York City Human Rights Law.
More details and comments after the jump.
WHAT: Press Conference
WHEN: Tuesday, March 22, 11:00 am
WHERE: Foley Square, Manhattan (across the street from the New York County Supreme Court at 60 Centre Street)
WHO: Plaintiffs Sam Berkley, Joann Prinzivalli, and Patricia Harrington; Noah Lewis, Staff Attorney at the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund.
WHY: The vast majority of transgender people have not undergone the extensive surgical procedures demanded by the City before it will change the sex designation on birth certificates. Most cannot afford these procedures, and for many, they are medically inappropriate. "A birth certificate is a fundamental form of identification," said Noah Lewis, staff attorney at the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, which is representing the plaintiffs. "By refusing to give transgender people accurate birth certificates that reflect who they are, the city subjects transgender people to harassment and discrimination in areas like employment where ID is essential to proving eligibility to work." "Proper ID is essential for full participation in society," added Mr. Lewis. "As long as the city discriminates against transgender people by denying them accurate ID, transgender people will continue to be pushed to the margins of society."
The above press release from TLDEF is interesting not only because of the novelty of the grounds for the lawsuit, but also because it follows on an effort a few years ago to address this via a commission of experts organized by the city. The experts decided, based on the available scientific evidence, to permit the change in birth certificates prior to any surgery. The City was set to put this procedure into place.
When the press got hold of this, and started yammering about "men in dresses", however, the pressure came down on the New York City Board of Health, which unanimously voted to reject the recommendations of their own experts, and the whole report was put in the garbage can.
I think this is one more instance of the maxim that human rights should never be put up for a vote. Don't you agree?